Startup Could Stop Feds from Controlling the Web

With the use of mesh networks, Internet users could create their own networks, bypassing government-controlled or government-spied on ones.

A startup called Open Garden is looking to use people’s own cellular phones.

According to Forbes, over the last two years, five million people have downloaded the company’s free Android app Open Garden to create wireless hotspots, and its FireChat app for iPhones and Droids to chat anonymously with other users “off the grid.”

The FireChat app isn’t perfect, but what’s tantalizing about both services is that they need no WiFi connection or carrier plan to get connected. Just another person with the app, within a 70-meter radius, reported Forbes.

A “mesh network” refers to the creation of a peer-to-peer “mesh” of smartphones that form their own separate network. If at least one smartphone is online, the rest of the network can not only talk to one another, but connect to the web too.

This has caught on in places where the government could try to censor its people like in Taiwan where around 100,000 activists in Taipei had taken to the streets to protest a trade agreement with China, and local blogs urged them to download FireChat — just in case the government shut down web access.

There’s been similar interest for FireChat in Iran. Users in the country have started 1,800 FireChat groups, making Iran the second biggest user of the app after the United States.

“People can grow their own Internet,” said FireChat founder Micha Benoliel.